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Michael Neve

18 November 1982
Edie: An American Biography 
by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.
Cape, 455 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 224 02068 4
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Baby Driver: A Story About Myself 
by Jan Kerouac.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 233 97487 3
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...  of the Sedgwick family. It is the history of the Sedgwick family that makes up Edie, a best-seller in the United States, and a haunted history stretching from 1774 to the present: the author, JeanStein, and her co-editor, George Plimpton, of the Paris Review, acknowledge the familial dimension by providing a ‘genealogy of principal characters’ near the end of the book. The founding father ...

I want my wings

Andrew O’Hagan: The Last Tycoons

3 March 2016
West of Eden: An American Place 
by Jean Stein.
Cape, 334 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 224 10246 9
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... can seem mythical. Like proper myths, its stories are almost exclusively about metamorphosis, self-destruction and things going wrong, but they are at least stories as opposed to advertisements. JeanStein’s book deploys a wonderful grace in uncovering a monstrous reality – it tells brilliant stories, sometimes very personal ones, and lets their accretion work its own magic. The Steins lived ...
18 November 1993
New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... America, and the year is 1968 or 1969. We are having cocktails, the Southern gentleman’s expression for raw liquor sprayed with vermouth, at Elaine’s Restaurant, or perhaps it’s the home of JeanStein, the wealthy and stunningly attractive daughter of the chairman of the board of the Music Corporation of America. Money and beauty, as ever, are important, but power and greed have yet to ...


Ian Hamilton: Locating the G-Spot

5 August 1982
... Edie Sedgwick. Sedgwick appeared in a number of Warhol’s films in the Sixties, was taken up by Vogue, got into drugs and died – or ‘astro-projected’ – in 1971, aged 28. As with the Jean Harris and Claus von Bulow dramas which were the CTPs of my last two visits to New York, the tale of Edie offers rich lashings of upper-crust unpleasantness. The Sedgwicks are one of the New England ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch

7 November 2013
Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... kind of reputation that would be retailed in gossip columns and joked about on in-flight movies for sixty years. After I stepped off that movie-heavy flight to New York, I was due to have dinner with JeanStein, who wrote the ‘oral biography’ of Edie Sedgwick. (She had published something of mine in Grand Street, and was a friend of Edward Said’s, whom I knew when I worked at the London Review ...
30 March 2000
Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... 1985) and Truman Capote by George Plimpton (1997). Plimpton had previously been involved in what may have been the earliest significant biography of this kind, Edie: An American Biography ‘by JeanStein edited with George Plimpton’, published in 1982. The technique is one which may make it possible for rich girls to produce books they might not have been able to write: assembling a montage ...

Quite Nice

Diana Souhami: Fernande Olivier

13 December 2001
Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier 
edited by Marilyn McCully, translated by Christine Baker.
Abrams, 296 pp., £24, May 2001, 0 8109 4251 8
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... lapse: ‘It’s the same when I make up my mind to keep a record of our daily expenses’) and anecdotes about people who subsequently became famous – Rousseau, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein – held together by vanity, an idea of how she wanted to be perceived by readers. In the summer of 1930 extracts were published in Le Soir. Though the tone was guarded and the content anodyne ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote

2 April 1998
Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... It is a fine and busy book, a small marvel of editing and selection, each bit of spoken evidence sitting good and lively in its place. It is a method Plimpton (along with his sometime collaborator JeanStein) used much less beguilingly in a book about Robert Kennedy, but which they deployed to quite stunning effect in Edie, the story of Warhol starlet Edie Sedgewick. ‘The form is particularly ...


Anne Stillman: Jean​ Cocteau

12 July 2017
Jean​ Cocteau: A Life 
by Claude Arnaud, translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell.
Yale, 1024 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 17057 3
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... Jean Cocteau​ had a genius for being seen. As an elegant young man, with the cult poet Anna de Noailles on his arm, thanks to an introduction from Proust, he danced the polka at the Bastille Day ball in ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter

22 September 1994
Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... female subjects. The ethics of contemporary literary biography have come in for some harsh recent criticism from women writers, especially when the subject is a woman. In a review of a book about Jean Stafford in 1988, Joyce Carol Oates declared her disgust with ‘pathography’, a narrative focused on dysfunction, breakdown, addiction and disaster, rather than on the mysterious process whereby ...

A Most Consistent Man

Barry Schwabsky: Renoir

13 September 2018
Renoir: An Intimate Biography 
by Barbara Ehrlich White.
Thames and Hudson, 432 pp., £24.95, October 2017, 978 0 500 23957 5
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... interests were very much narrower in range than Renoir’s, they never displayed any such capacity for growth, and they never had at their service a comparable command of the medium of paint.’ Leo Stein, born in 1872, the same year as Barnes, had an equally exalted view of Renoir, praising ‘the serene graciousness of his pure and noble joy’. Phillips, born in 1886, saw things differently. To him ...

Grandiose Moments

Frank Kermode

6 February 1997
Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. II 
by Max Saunders.
Oxford, 696 pp., £35, September 1996, 0 19 212608 3
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... Saunders, like Mizener, is an academic and has hundreds of scrupulous notes. Mizener had the advantage of being able to consult many surviving friends of Ford, including Allen Tate, Herbert Read, Jean Rhys and Rebecca West. He also had access to the papers of Ford’s mistress Violet Hunt and the Ford collections in various American libraries, notably those of Cornell and Princeton. Judd and ...

On Not Getting the Credit

Brian Dillon: Eileen Gray

23 May 2013
Eileen Gray 
Pompidou Centre, 20 February 2013 to 20 May 2013Show More
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... was close, though it’s hard to say how close, to the singer Damia, to the artist Romaine Brooks and to Gaby Bloch, companion-cum-manager of the dancer Loie Fuller. She knew and admired Gertrude Stein, but mostly steered clear of her salon; she tended to mock the coterie around Djuna Barnes, with their white gloves and martinis at the Flore; and seems to have spent her spare time elegantly bowing ...


Eliot Weinberger: Next stop, Forbidden City

23 June 2005
... a dialect Gu Cheng could not understand, and in his isolation he became absorbed in the natural world: ‘Nature’s voice became language in my heart. That was happiness.’ His favourite book was Jean-Henri Fabre’s 19th-century entomological notes and drawings; he collected insects and watched birds; he wrote poems in the sand with a twig, poems with titles like ‘The Nameless Little Flower ...

Cubist Slugs

Patrick Wright: The Art of Camouflage

23 June 2005
DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material; An Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature – Military – Culture 
DPM, 2 vols, 944 pp., £100, September 2004, 9780954340407Show More
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... I well remember at the beginning of the war,’ Gertrude Stein wrote in 1938, ‘being with Picasso on the Boulevard Raspail when the first camouflaged truck passed. It was at night, we had heard of camouflage but we had not seen it and Picasso, amazed, looked ...

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